Discovering the Satisfaction Factor
Principle 5 marks the halfway point of our Intuitive Eating journey. This is a perfect time to talk about the keystone of intuitive eating; satisfaction.
Despite what our diet-obsessed culture might lead you to believe, food is an enjoyable part of our lives that should be celebrated! Memories of birthday cake wishes, family barbecues, anniversary dinners, and cultural food experiences on favorite trips are all examples of how food can positively impact our lives. Diets teach us to subdue this satisfaction and “eat to live” rather than “live to eat.” Intuitive eating teaches us to embrace the satisfaction factor. Eating foods that you enjoy and make you feel good is a fantastic way to connect with your body—which is the key concept of intuitive wating as a whole.
A point of distinction: there is a big difference between satisfaction and physical fullness. Let me demonstrate with the following scenario.
You’re visiting your mother’s house at the end of the day. As a result, you’ve been thinking about her homemade chocolate chip cookies all day long. She always has some ready. But alas, you’re on a diet. On arrival, you see the glorious cookies and you think to yourself, “I want to look good in my bikini this summer; I’m going to have carrots and dip instead.” You eat the carrots, you’re feeling full but oh boy, do those cookies look scrumptious. You eat an apple with peanut butter instead. Afterwards, you’re feeling very full but you still have a strong cookie desire. So, you eat the cookie anyway. Scratch that, you eat 3 (because who knows when you will be allowed to have them next).
This is an example of physical fullness without satisfaction. What you really wanted was a cookie—this was a special cookie loaded with memories (and plenty of chocolate morsels). You were looking forward to it all day! You had a really strong desire to eat this cookie. You tried substituting with fruits and vegetables you didn’t put effort into preparing. This prevented you from feeling mentally satisfied. Had we advocated for satisfaction earlier, how might’ve this scenario gone differently? Well, you might have enjoyed a cookie and moved on with your day, eating a lot less food overall, and feeling a lot less stuffed in the end.
If you’re not yet sold on allowing yourself food satisfaction, ask yourself this: how often have your food rules worked? Has restricting your favorite foods and treats actually worked long-term for you? Eating what you want, in an environment that is pleasing, helps you to feel more content with a meal. Finding satisfaction in a meal helps you to not only stop eating when you’ve had just the right amount of food, but also to move on without food preoccupation or cravings.
You might be thinking, “Well, I really enjoy eating fried chicken and onion rings, so I’ll just eat those all day.” Keep in mind the goal is to find long-lasting satisfaction—not just in the moment of eating food, but afterwards as well. Speaking from personal experience, if I eat greasy foods all day, I can hardly enjoy those foods because I don’t feel my best. In fact, I feel quite sick afterwards. Discovering the satisfaction factor means eating the foods you enjoy and really want, considering your physical needs as well. It’s a balancing act that comes with a lot of practice.
How do we find the satisfaction factor? Here are a few strategies you can try:
- Before eating, think to yourself: what do you really want to eat? Which textures, flavors, and smells do you want to experience? Chewy or crunchy? Salty or sweet? Sour or spicy? How do you want to feel after you’ve finished eating?
- Elevate your eating environment with a few of these ideas: clear the table, add flowers or a candle to increase visual appeal, play instrumental music, adjust the lighting, sit down at a table, take a deep breath beforehand to destress from the day, and/or chew your food slowly.
- Eating at the right hunger level can increase satisfaction. Are you eating when you are ravenous and don’t stop to taste the food racing down your gullet? Or are you eating when you’re too full to even think about what sounds good to you? Aim to eat when at a 3 on the hunger scale to get the most satisfaction out of a meal.
- Check in with yourself throughout the meal. Does it still taste good? Do you need to add a topping or sauce to really hit the spot? At what point do your bites start to taste less tasty? Is this a good stopping point for you?
- Don’t settle—“if you don’t love it, don’t eat it.” Stop eating it and find something else that sounds better. That way, you can be mentally satisfied once you reach physical fullness. Maybe you thought you wanted a slice of cake—but it’s really not as good as it sounded. You are not obligated to finish it.
Pick one meal or snack this week. What can you do to increase satisfaction at that meal or snack? Maybe it’s one of these 5 suggestions or maybe it’s something else you’ve thought of. Before you begin your meal, take a moment to note your meal and surroundings. Then, consider what about that dining experience is giving you positive feelings. Perhaps you record this in a journal which can help cement any takeaways.
Last but not least, let’s spotlight practical issues that come up when eating. Sometimes, you don’t always get to have a say in exactly what you want to eat (i.e. a catered event). But, you can practice eating what looks the most appealing out of the given options. Or, you can improve the environment by taking deep breaths, eating slowly, and enjoying your company. Perhaps you plan your meals a week in advance, so there’s not much flexibility in deciding what sounds best—that’s okay. Every food experience won’t always bring us complete satisfaction. Start with one meal and be patient with yourself as you continue your Intuitive Eating journey.
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